Streams

The New Ageism

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Margaret Morganroth Gullette, cultural critic, resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and author of Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America, talks about resistance to ageism.

Guests:

Margaret Morganroth Gullette

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Comments [18]

Matt S from NYC

I can really only feel so sorry for the middle-aged. Have they taken a moment to read about the tough time the young are having? New graduates can't find work, or if they do, they are severely overqualified and underpaid. That underpayment will continue throughout their entire career, meaning they will earn less over a lifetime. With the debt from college, buying a home and supporting a family is a nightmare, thank goodness for the housing collapse since it at least brought home prices within shooting distance, if a bank will give a loan to anyone other than a megacorporation.

As I said, I really can feel only so much sympathy for the older generations, after all, they voted for Reagan and Gingrich and Bush. They supported tax cuts and deregulation and globalization and 401ks, cutting property taxes so schools got less money. They bought Chinese-made products at Wal-mart and then complain that there are no jobs here. Or they shipped jobs to Vietnam and took huge bonuses.

To quote Julia Sugarbaker, "If the world isn't quite what you had in mind, you have only yourselves to thank."

May. 20 2011 09:30 AM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, If there was something I could take so I wouldn't have to grow older, I'd take it. When you are older, nobody wants you. It is a very depressing and negative thing. Eugenia Renskoff

May. 18 2011 01:06 PM
jeannie from Nashville, TN

Oh yes, there certainly is age discrimination. I have been passed up for work since 2006. I'm 64 and have had to file for early retirement and am living in a senior HUD residence - talk about depressing!!!
I do dye my hair (have for 20+ yrs.) and am told I look like I'm in my 40's.
It doesn't matter - self-worth and self-esteem are what I'm desperately seeking.
Look forward to reading Ms. Gullette's book.

May. 18 2011 11:17 AM
Marie Shear from Brooklyn, NY

5/18/11
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2011/may/18/new-ageism/#commentform
A New Definition of "Senior Moment"

The pervasive term "senior moment" is toxic. Because it is ostensibly humorous, we don't realize that by using it we are swallowing and spreading ageism.

Here is my own definition of "senior moment":
(1) Any accomplishment, large or small, possible because acuity, confidence, and gumption increase with age.
(2) A memory lapse or other sign of ineptitude attributable to advancing age. Obsolete.

Marie Shear
Widely unheralded writer & editor
Brooklyn, NY

May. 18 2011 11:13 AM
Stephan from Queens NYC

The American bosses/managers don’t want mature older workers to work for them because most are ego driven. Most (not all) young boss wants younger people working for them. I think they believe that these young people look up to them and not eye to eye like the senior worker. I was working in my profession longer than my coworker or some of my bosses has been on this earth. I think this puts us 50+ workers in a jam because we don’t work or socialize in the same way our younger boss or coworker conduct business.

May. 18 2011 11:02 AM
Jan Kleeman from New York

The subject of ageism, which encompasses so many issues, legal, economic, social and otherwise, cannot be covered in a short radio piece, admirable as this segment of the show is.
As an attorney who just turned 60, look about 50, and feel about 25, I have been unable, despite an Ivy League law degree and great cv, to find a job -- going on about 4 years now -- and have turned to adjunct teaching, not for the money, which is laughable and another subject relating to higher education, but in an attempt to redeem and preserve a sense of self-woth and self-esteem.
I believe -- and there are so many things to say about this -- that sexism factors in as well. For example, look at how many of the "old boys" -- mostly white men -- in the medical profession are at the height of their careers, generally, in their 50s and 60s, often in the top 100 best doctor lists, often in such great demand they have stopped taking new patients. There are so many fewer women who have been in the profession that long that it is hard to know, but I suspect that experience might trump age if only women break the sex barrier. As for first hires, I think that even including your age on your resume for virtually any job, if you are over 40, and certainly if my age, will reduce your chances of being interviewed (and virtually assure you will not be considered for hiring) to almost zero. This notwithstanding the ADEA; as an aside, as an attorney, this type of claim, like some many others such as sex and even race discrimination, are extremely hard to prove, even when they are not, as they often are, exploited by workers who were fired for cause and not because of age, sex or race. And all of this is exacerbated and brought into clearer relief at a time when so many people, who are of the baby boomer generation, professional and otherwise, are at the peak of their knowledge, experience and wisdom, resulting in a great loss to our national resources, especially in such a floundering economy. Yet in the perfect storm it is the economic slump that has exacerbated this issue for older workers.
An entirely separate conversation regards societal views of older people, physical attraction, sexist distortions of aging as between men (older, still sexy), vs. women (older, period).
I look forward to reading Ms. Gullette's book. Jan Kleeman

May. 18 2011 11:01 AM
Ingrid from Eatontown, NJ

I am 70 years old. I have raised 6 children and have worked most of my life. I am currently a full time college student studying anthropology. Life is going great....except I am not going to have enough money to live on once my unemployment runs out. I can't sell my house for what I owe on it so I am stuck with a big mortgage. I am hoping I will get a job but at this point I don't know. I am active, in good health, look good for my age, etc. Unfortunately, having raised 6 children I don't have a pension. I don't know what the future holds and I'm feeling very nervous and vulnerable at this point. What to do...

May. 18 2011 10:55 AM
JPS from Park Slope

Age Discrimination Employment Act is currently one of the elephants in the room. I was explicitly told by the CEO of a firm I was with not to hire older workers. I told him about the legal issues and he was not aware of the Discrimination act. He was 30 at the time and I was 35. Now I see it all the time. The trend is here. I went to Google and I saw rows and rows of 20 somethings. But all of the senior execs were 35 - 40 + who actually did the decision making. The top research people happen to be older. Tells you something don't it?

What are older workers who aren't wealthy to do ? Kill themselves? Didn't the Nazis engage in that that with the infirmed and the people they thought couldn't contribute?

It's all about money not about lack of skills or brain power. I learned Genetics and informatics and all of the new technology from scratch in two years when I was 50.

I think we should band together and promote US. And call to task all business who discriminate and prosecute them.

Yes, look at us, this is what everyone will become IF they are lucky and not die before 50.

May. 18 2011 10:54 AM
Mike from NYC

I have experienced this myself. Nearly two years ago, at the age of 60, I was laid off from a job in IT that I had held for a number of years. The year before I was laid off I had been awarded a bonus of about 5% additional compensation, so there was no problem with the quality of my work. Since I was laid off I have not been able to find another job. On at least one occasion, at my former work place, my application was passed over for a younger, less experienced person. For another job I was asked my previous salary had been and since it was 10% over what the job was offering, I was told I was not eligible. In other words, I was denied a position because of the years of successful experience I had had at a nearly identical job. What is that other than age discrimination by another tactic. My unemployment insurance has run out. I have had to take early social security, but now the Republican politicians and some conservative Democrats are claiming that the retirement age must be increased. What are people laid off in middle age, like me, supposed to do? Just go away and die?

May. 18 2011 10:51 AM
kat from NJ

I am 64, and have been a child welfare Social Worker for almost 40 years, the last 20+ for a private agency. I am being downsized because I am carrying a smaller caseload for the last year. The caseload size is determined by a direct supervisor. I have had only outstanding evaluations over a number of years. Reasons cited include my ability to apply for SSA, and work part time, therefore giving a younger social worker the ability to take my position to make more money.

May. 18 2011 10:49 AM
Mike from NYC

I have experienced this myself. Nearly two years ago, at the age of 60, I was laid off from a job in IT that I had held for a number of years. The year before I was laid off I had been awarded a bonus of about 5% additional compensation, so there was no problem with the quality of my work. Since I was laid off I have not been able to find another job. On at least one occasion, at my former work place, my application was passed over for a younger, less experienced person. For another job I was asked my previous salary had been and since it was 10% over what the job was offering, I was told I was not eligible. In other words, I was denied a position because of the years of successful experience I had had at a nearly identical job. What is that other than age discrimination by another tactic. My unemployment insurance has not run out. I have had to take early social security, but now the Republican politicians and some conservative Democrats are claiming that the retirement age must be increased. What are people like me supposed to do? Just go away and die?

May. 18 2011 10:49 AM

This is going to force many of us to start home based businesses. How about women who have been out of the work force because they were raising a family? They are going to fair even worse than a woman who has been working during the child-raising years.

Try to work for yourself, that seems to be the only viable solution.

May. 18 2011 10:46 AM
paulb from Brooklyn

I suppose all we'll hear from are teachers and professors.

Typical.

May. 18 2011 10:44 AM
Aissa

Jamie, you rock! Wish I could listen to you every day!

May. 18 2011 10:43 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I slightly disagree with the author's premise about where this problem comes from in the workplace; I do not disagree that older people get laid off constantly so that companies can hire cheaper, younger labor - I think this is more a product of our greedy corporate culture more than actual ageism rising - it's yet another area that companies want to exploit to make more and more money.

That said - I am all for creating a constant dialogue about this. The great irony is - as someone over 40 - I actually love being my age, and really see older people as far more interesting and worth hiring and spending time with than younger people. Life experience and a lack of focus on the more petty things that younger people can obsess about - make being older enjoyable and valuable. Older people need to constantly remind themselves of this, and promote being "in-the-know-and-over-40" in the way that the youth culture promotes themselves.

May. 18 2011 10:43 AM
Lisa from NYC

I lost my job as a corporate litigation paralegal in October 2008; I have 10 years of legal experience, both administrative and paralegal.

I am now selling dog food part-time, I'm doing some tutoring as well, but two part-time jobs still don't even pay the rent. I have a BA from NYU, but I'm in my late 40's, starting over, and terrified that I won't be able to take care of myself any more.

May. 18 2011 10:40 AM
fader

NYC is not a place for the sober.

May. 18 2011 09:57 AM
Is This an Example?

I don't know if this fits into the topic but this is an example that requires the phrase "Why don't you act your age?", a question being asked maybe because of ageism - and also related to New York specifically as a playground for the rich, who are carefree and can afford to act like children no matter how old they get:

A couple years ago I was walking down 8th ave with a friend and coming towards us were two people, looking like the typical affluent New Yorkers of today - they were a 40-something year old woman and a 20-something year old man. They could have been mother and son, they could have been a couple. They were shoving each other like teenagers, or drunken youths. Wildly pushing into each other and off of each other. Giggling while doing it. Taking up the entire width of the block in their movements. Oblivious to anyone else on the street. Sure enough, after passing us, I suddenly feel a strong knock on my back and the woman has crashed into me after being shoved by her son-or-boyfriend and as I shake her off, she falls onto the sidewalk and is in clear immediate pain. I said "good" and called them idiots. My friend wasn't happy with me, but I didn't care. The woman should have acted her age.

For the record, I'm 29.

May. 18 2011 09:10 AM

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